Posts Tagged ‘Flying M.E.’

Sandra's Occasional Newsletter - Dec. 2021
A little bit of news… but not too much. 

Before Squaw Valley (now Palisades Tahoe) the destination ski resort for East Coast socialites in Reno for a divorce and Hollywood celebs was Sky Tavern on the Mount Rose Highway. Sky Tavern opened in 1945 with a 21-room hotel, coffee shop and bar. There was no electricity. The resort ran on a gasoline-operated generator. The ski lift consisted of a couple of rope tows and a T-bar lift, where you wrapped one leg around an upside-down metal T attached to a moving cable and let it pull you up the slope.

Squaw Valley opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1949. According to Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows: Tales from Two Valleys by Eddy Starr, opening day was a fiasco. Union workers had stopped construction on the lodge, resulting in strikebreakers being brought in to finish the work. The resort founder, Alex Cushing, was working on the plumbing himself. There was no running water. There was no dinner until 10 p.m. Only one toilet was working and the waiting line for it snaked out into the lobby. One of Cushing’s daughters tripped and broke her leg that night, and the family dog was run over by a guest. However, Cushing persevered and Squaw Valley went on to become a world-class resort and host to the 1960 winter Olympics Games.

Women are less conservative than men in their ski apparel and food choices. While women are more fastidious and tend to eat less because their mind is on their figure and whose contours and details are emphasized by the wearing of ski clothes…they can be more easily persuaded to try what they have not eaten before. That is, to my thinking, because they are as a rule more curious than men.”
– Maitre ‘d hotel Fritz Schwarz, Squaw Valley, and formerly Sun Valley, Idaho (Reno Reporter, Oct 13, 1949)  

Flying M.E. divorce seeker at Sky Tavern ski resort, December 1947

Before Squaw Valley, socialites and Hollywood celebs skied at Sky Tavern ski resort. Pictured: Flying M.E. divorce seeker, Dec 1947. (Photo Valerie Vondermuhll. William and Sandra McGee Collection)

—From the new edition of The Divorce Seekers – True Stories from the 1940s Nevada Divorce Ranch Era. Coming in 2022 in softcover. A limited quantity of the first edition (2004), a hardcover coffee table book, is available on Amazon for $35. The book is currently being developed as a series for cable or streaming.

‘Til next year, happy holidays to all! Open all night for comments below…

Best, Sandra

Ed Pearce of KOLO-TV, Reno, interviews former 1940s Nevada dude wrangler Bill McGee on the site of the famous Flying M.E. divorce ranch, Washoe Valley, Nevada. November 2004.


Take a listen to this interview on Nevada Public Radio’s KNPR in Las Vegas, March 1, 2011

Tales from Reno’s Divorce Ranches 

The interview includes commentary by the following Reno divorce era experts:

  • Author Bill McGee – former 1940s dude wrangler on Nevada’s Flying M.E. divorce ranch
  • Author Marilu Norden -divorce seeker at the Pyramid Lake Guest Ranch in the 1950s
  • Beth Ward – former owner of the Whitney Guest Ranch in Reno
  • Mella Harmon – Reno divorce historian

TRUE WEST Magazine, opening page of Sandra McGee's Reno divorce story, June 2010


Thank you to editor Meghan Saar for including my story in TRUE WEST Magazine (June 2010)

Click on the link below to ready the story…

“The Divorce Seekers – An old-time wrangler recalls Reno, the ‘city of broken vows’, through his days at the Flying M.E. ranch” by Sandra V. McGee


Mount Rose, Nevada, November 2009 – On a chilly morning in November 2009, Bill and I gathered with four close friends to dedicate the Bill and Sandra McGee Mile on the Tahoe Rim Trail. The mile we chose to sponsor is the Connector Trail from the Mt. Rose Summit Trailhead to Relay Peak Road.

Per Bill’s wishes, our sponsored mile was dedicated to Emmy Wood, the legendary proprietor of the famous Flying M.E. divorce ranch, where Bill worked as the head dude ranch wrangler from 1947 to 1949.

Bill has a long history with Lake Tahoe going back to the 1930s, when he first visited the Lake as a teenager while thumbing his way around the West. Following his discharge from the Navy after World War II, he worked at the Lake as a trail and deer hunting guide for the Bob Scates stables in Tahoe City.

From 1947 to 1949, when Bill was the head dude wrangler on the Flying M.E., south of Reno, he led ranch guests on pack trips and overnight camping trips to the Lake.

Bill left cowboying in 1950, but he returned to Lake Tahoe as often as he could… as a hiker, a skier, and a writer. In the 1980s, when Bill was living in Incline Village, Nevada, he was one of the first volunteers to help build the Tahoe Rim Trail.

On May 15, 2010, Bill and I were presented with a Commemorative Plaque for our sponsorship of the Bill and Sandra McGee Mile on the Tahoe Rim Trail.

(L to R) TRT’s Janice Barbour, Director of Development; Mark Kimbrough, former Executive Director; and (far right) Mary Bennington, Executive Director

For more on the Tahoe Rim Trail Association’s Adopt-a-Mile program, visit Tahoe Rim Trail.


Writer/wrangler Bill McGee talks about his book, The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler and his time from 1947 to 1949 working on the Flying M.E., the famous dude and divorce ranch twenty-one miles south of Reno that catered to wealthy Easterners, socialites, and Hollywood celebrities.

Interview at Western Writers of America Mega-Book Signing
June 19, 2009
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Oklahoma City, OK

Sandra McGee, co-author of The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler, shares her thoughts on the Reno divorce era.

Interview at Western Writers of America Mega-Book Signing
June 19, 2009
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
Oklahoma City, OK